Thursday, April 2, 2009
Interview with Jonathan Bernstein!
Jonathan Bernstein is the author of Hottie, which is released today!
Alison Cole’s got it all: She’s gorgeous, dating a steamy surfer boy, and has just been crowned Beverly Hills High Freshman Class President. Then during a special “symmetry” surgery, a lightning bolt zaps her, and Alison instantly transforms into Hottie—that is, a totally sizzling superhero with the power to shoot fire from her fingers!
Shunned as a Pyro-Freak, Alison must adopt dorky David Eels as her crime-fi ghting sidekick. Worse, she’s falling for the one guy who wants to “extinguish” her forever, Junior Class President of Cuteness— and wannabe fi refi ghter—T. Hull. But she doesn’t realize that a supervillain’s lurking. . . .
Has Hottie met her match?
What was your inspiration for Hottie?
The title came first. Then a bunch of What If's: what if it's a story about a girl who has some kind of fire power? What if flames blast out of her fingers every time she gets angry or upset or excited? What if she's the sort of girl who generally never gets angry or upset? What if she's a super-popular and privileged Beverly Hills High student? What if this unwanted ability destroys her popularity and makes her an outcast? What if she becomes a superhero? What if she has to face a supervillain? After that it pretty much all fell into place-- and by fell into place, I mean, took months of laborious rewrites.
Are you currently working on any novels? If yes, can you tell us anything about them?
Yes, I'm embroiled in months of laborious rewrites on Hottie 2 which might( but probably won't) be subtitled" Burning Ambition". It's a superhero, teen magazine-based version of `The Devil Wears Prada'. I'm also a little under halfway through another YA book which, though unrelated to Hottie, is ALSO about a popular, privileged blonde who undergoes a life-altering--but not supernatural-- transformation. If I get it right, it should read like a cross between `Gossip Girl' and `The Office'. Hopefully, after that, I'll be done with the Popular Blonde phase of my writing career. Or maybe it'll become my speciality.
What was the weirdest time you ever got inspiration for a story?
The too-literal-but-accurate answer is between 4 and 5AM. That time between waking and sleeping I find very fertile in terms of ideas popping into my head. 98% of them are hideous and nonsensical when I'm fully awake but there's been a couple that have actually stuck and left me thinking "Where did THAT come from?"
What kind of music do you listen to? Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, what kinds -- is there a certain playlist?
My favorite music is Shuffle. I've got three iPods ( and half an iPhone) filled with British punk rock and American disco from the 70s, 80s technopop, French girl singers from the 60s, Italo-Disco, grimey 90s New York hip-hop, Japanese synth-pop, country and r&b. Having said that, I basically like pop and my definitions of what is it are pretty wide. As I write this, the first 5 songs to show up on my iPod- and I'm being honest-- are: `Beautiful Noise' by Neil Diamond `Silver Dollar' by Tommy McCook &The Skatalites, "Something You Got" by Alvin Robinson, "Boom! There She Was" by Scritti Politti and "They're Dancing Now" by Patty Michaels.
Why did you decide to write for teens and not children or adults?
I've given this a lot of thought and I've come to the conclusion I might be a bit immature. I don't know that I'm capable of
having an adult conversation but at the same time I'm too cynical and jaded to be allowed to write for children. So teens it is.
What are your favorite teen books? Your favorite teen authors?
It's not technically a teen book, but it is a book about a teen. "We Need To Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver. It's about a mother dealing with her lingering lifelong suspicions that her son might be the most evil person alive. I was actually shaking when I was reading it. Outside of that, I'll read anything Scott Westerfeld writes. Louise Rennison's books are genuinely funny and I'm looking forward to reading A.S King's `Dust of 100 Dogs'.
How has Hottie changed from the first draft to the draft we will all see on store shelves today?
The biggest change was that the heroine decreased in age from 17 to 14 which required the expunging of all ( but one!) profanity. Maybe I'll leak the non-squeaky clean version one day.
When you were in high school, did you believe that it was the "best years of your life"? Looking back on it, do you think that now?
I did not. I couldn't wait to leave and feared it would never end. But something unexpected happened in sixth year( which was what we called 12th grade in Scotland where I grew up). Everyone changed. Literally. Bullies stopped being bullies. Stuck-up girls stopped being stuck-up. Cliques devolved. At first, i thought I was letting my guard down and seeing beyond my prejudices. But it was more than that. It was like everyone had just grown out of being who they'd been for the previous few years. College,work, travel, unemployment and uncertainty were right around the corner, No-one had transitioned into who they were going to be. I was suddenly friends with people I'd detested and who'd been unceasingly unpleasant to me. It was a weird year and, the more I think about it, there might be a book or screenplay in there somewhere( talk about inspiration coming at the strangest times...)
What is your advice to teens who want to be authors?
You're never going to be more passionate or full of self-belief than you are when you're young. The first thing everybody writes is always terrible. Don't let that stop you. Get the terrible first thing out of the way then keep going. Find the area you're interested in, let your voice develop. Try and find someone who doesn't shower you with unstinting praise but also doesn't try to undermine you: use them as a sounding board. Every idea has already been done to death. If you're going to write a vampire romance, ask yourself what you have to offer that makes it different from every other vampire romance.
Ask yourself a question and answer it. :)
Q) Where are my keys?
A)If I knew that, I wouldn't be looking for them!
Thank you, Jonathan!